Back To Life

It’s been nearly four months since I’ve written anything. I don’t feel any particular way about it. Today I just got the feeling that I needed to get something out so that’s what I’m doing.

What’s Happened Since October?

Generally, I’ve been coping a lot better with grief. By no means is everything totally fine (is it ever?) but I’m out of the black cloud I was under – that’s for sure.  The world’s starting to brighten up and I’m embracing it.

The way I’ve approached work has changed massively. My desk has been tidy for months which is a first in my eight year teaching career. I’m working on communicating more effectively, not keeping things bottled up until I have a break down. Fortunately, the team I work with are understanding and thoughtful – it’s had a positive impact. I’m much more specific about my working hours. Finally work-life balance might be happening, though I am going to see what working a four day week is like at some point.

My social life has changed too. Social media usage has been minimised – something I should have done much earlier in all honesty. I’ve stopped being an obsessive organiser so plans have been much more collaborative and stress-free. This has also had the knock-on effect that I’m seeing more of some people and much less of others. I’m no longer restless at home which is such a wonderful feeling. So many of my days at home have been filled with me whining about not wasting the day and wanting to go do something but not knowing what exactly. It was frustrating to say the least. Quiet relaxation is nothing to feel guilty about. When I do go out now, my days are filled with walks, exhibitions, shows, good food and good conversation. It’s nourishing.

Shopping, which I used to class as a hobby, isn’t really a thing any more. Stuff is stuff and accumulating more and more of it is something I’m no longer interested in. I’ve given away lots of my stuff, haven’t bought any clothes in the past two months and I’m making use of my local library (book-buying is a major weakness of mine). I’m now filling my time with reading – a lot of reading. In an effort to get out of the house more on work days, I joined three books clubs: feminist (monthly), sci-fi/fantasy (monthly) and feminist (quarterly). I started anxiously in December and I wish I’d done it sooner – it’s been a really good change. I’ve missed feeling my brain work on something that isn’t related to teaching.

The biggest change has been a change in perspective on life. Before everything transpired last year, the entirety  of my existence was focused on making others happy and filling my life with as many experiences as humanly possible. I planned and timetabled my life so much – I knew where I’d be going on holiday in ten years time. Painfully, I’ve learned the hard way that you cannot completely be the source of someone’s happiness, no matter how hard you try. I say quality rather than quantity as a teacher all the time but I’ve never applied it to my own life experiences. I always felt the need to do more, visit more places, meet more people but actually there is beauty in little things. I still want to travel the world but I made the big step this year to cancel a huge trip and just be because sitting on the sofa with my husband is just as special.

When I read what I’ve written, it seems I’ve come a long way since October. Though sometimes my brain takes me right back to that dark cave and I deflate a little – I just think that’s something I need to be aware could happen from time to time. Getting here took a lot of support and encouragement from people I’m very lucky yo have in my life. Time to focus on the good.

What I’ve Been Up To

  • Attended a modern music version of Nosferatu with my sister
  • Cooked a LOT (pie, pavlova, grandma’s samay, curry, etc.)
  • Had a Harry Potter weekender with my family and Becky
  • Met my pen friend from the States in London
  • Eaten lots of lovely things with a fellow brown girl foodie
  • Caught up with old friends
  • Made new friends
  • Went to MANY drag shows – including Drag Con Uk
  • Wore lots of colourful vintage outfits
  • Took in lots of art exhibitions
  • Celebrated my sixteen year anniversary with my husband

There are lots of wonderful things to focus on and many more to come.

Papow Ponders #19: Loss

Note: This post will discuss death and loss.

I’ve not written for a long time due to some difficult life events. After taking some time and giving myself space to reflect, I’ve decided to write this as writing has always been a healthy way for me to process my thoughts and feelings.

My Experience

This year I have experienced a great deal of loss. Everyone’s experience of loss is different; I’m writing from my own perspective.

Death has always been a big fear of mine. From a young age, I’ve worried about my loved ones passing away. This turned into very real anxiety as an adult: I had intrusive thoughts about awful things happening to my friends and family or I’d be deeply morbid and wonder why I should do anything as everyone was going to die anyway. This became a reality for me a few months ago. I ended up doing what I wished I’d never have to do in life: I saw a last breath, held a cold hand and spoke at a funeral.

I can’t really explain how it feels but I’ll try the best I can. For me, I felt a gut-wrenching mix of anger, sadness and emptiness. It’s like living with a permanent black cloud over your head or a heavy stone weighing on your chest. You look back on all the things you could have said or done. You can hold it together one minute and then you’re a mess the next. It swallows you. My general behaviour changed. I became very clingy to my immediate family (for fear of losing more loved ones). I withdrew from people, only talking to those who knew what was going on. I lost all impetus to do anything productive or creative. I stopped reading and writing, I stopped dressing up, I stopped enjoying my food, I stopped exercising and I stopped washing my face. When I was on my own,  I’d be at home staring at my phone or ruminating.

Fortunately for me, I didn’t have much time to stay this way. My other half filled up days with activities he knew I’d enjoy (and had to get out of the house for). I spent time with family from the other side of the world. Friends called me, had dinner with me and talked about all kinds of inane rubbish with me. I went back to work and my class filled up my days.

Roughly two months on, I took a long trip away with my better half. I needed space away from everything and, at the end of the trip, naively I thought I had put my grief and sorrow into a locked box and thrown away the key. Roll on to my birthday a few weeks later and I ended up spending the majority of the day in uncontrollable tears.

Now, I’ve come to the realisation that loss and the feelings that come with it can’t be switched off. It’s like a hum in the background of your life (some of the time you barely notice it, some of the time it’s the only thing you can hear) and you live with it the best you can. That’s what my experience has been so far.

I wrote this to help me make sense of what’s happened and also to share what’s been helping me and hindering me over the past six months – just in case it helps anyone else.

What Helped?

  • Taking time away from work – while work can be a great distraction, having some time away gave me time to actually process what was happening.
  • Routine – it’s always helped my anxiety and it has also been beneficial during the grieving process.
  • Nature – it’s a form of escape.
  • Talking – it makes a difference. Even if it’s just asking for a cup of tea or some quiet, it helps.
  • Looking through photos – this can be bittersweet but it helps to remind you of the good stuff.
  • Getting out of the house – a change of surrounding can make a difference to your mood.
  • Being with/without people – I needed time on my own but also time with people. Finding a balance is hard but the right mix has a positive impact.
  • Books – another way to escape reality.
  • Tea

What Hindered?

  • People telling me how to feel
  • People pushing me to talk when I wasn’t ready
  • Filling my days with too many things
  • Not telling people how I feel
  • Expecting others who are grieving to feel the same as I do
  • Trying to keep everyone happy

I could write so much more but I feel like this is enough right now. To anyone who has been a support in the past few months, I can’t thank you enough. For anyone going through something similar, know that you are not alone.

 

 

Back From A Break

This is the first time I’ve written anything since March. I took a step back for a few reasons but I finally feel like I’m in the right place to write again without it feeling like a chore or duty.

I should say, there have been some difficult life moments that have filled these past few months. Normally, I’d write about these things in great detail but I’m not in the mood and, honestly, I don’t know if I ever will be.

There have been good times since March and I plan to share them through my Sunday posts.

Something I should mention is that I’ve experienced a bit of a sea change. My attitude to writing has changed and what I write about might change too.

Here’s to getting back into the swing of things!

 

 

 

Technically Edible: Hawksmoor’s Annual Charity Dinner

Yesterday, my better half and I headed to Hawksmoor for their annual charity dinner. We’ve been eating at their Seven Dials location for years so we thought we’d do something different and go to Guildhall for their charity event.

We kicked off proceedings with an espresso martini at The Ned before moving on for the main event…

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It’s clear to see we feasted well and boy, are we worse for wear this morning (note to self: do not mix drinks). Trying something different is no bad thing and definitely glad we had this experience!

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Technically Edible: Northern Line Food and Book Crawl

I have a tendency to look back on friendships and consider how they all began. I met Katie at pin-up picnic ages ago – we didn’t know much about each other. Last summer  we decided to meet up for the day and since then, we’ve got to know each other much more and we’ve been up to some pretty great things. Being bibliophiles and foodies, we took a little inspiration from @notsobasiclondon and organised a day in London based on books and eating. What could be better?

OOTD

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London Bridge

We kicked off proceedings early in London Bridge. Taking advantage of the lack of crowds, we began with the divine combination of Bread Ahead doughnuts (the best) and black Columbian coffees. Lipstick ruined but totally worth it. From here, we walked over to the Fashion and Textile museum for their new Swinging London exhibition and some vintage fashion appreciation. It’s definitely worth a visit! Our first bookshop cake in the form of The Riverside Bookshop which Katie found out specialised in travel guides. We both picked out our favourite London guides and I picked up yet another children’s book for school.

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Angel

Our second tube stop took us to Pophams (with a bit of mooching near Camden Passage). Tragedy struck when we found out they’d run out of their bacon and maple danishes. However, all was not lost: we got a rosemary sea salt twist and rhubarb and cardamom pastry. Buttery and delicious but not at all greasy, no wonder it’s such a popular spot. Afterwards, Katie took us to an Oxfam bookshop she’d admired for its window display dedicated to women. Inside, we flicked through some antique books – there was one from the 1840s too.

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Kings Cross

We took a freakishly windy walk to Kings Cross where we found Caravan. I’d heard this place was particularly good for brunch so I thought it’d be the right spot to rest our feet and try even more delicious grub. I had jalapeño cornbread with chorizo, fried eggs and chorizo. Katie had poached eggs with kale, ham hock and potatoes. We were both very happy with  the choices we’d made. Full up, we ambled along to one of my most beloved bookshops: Housmans. Here, we looked for alternative reads. If I’m honest, I’d happily have  spent a whole month’s wages while I was there.

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Leicester Square

At this point, we had reached a peak on the food front (unbelievable, I know). On the recommendation of one of the Housmans’ staff, we took a brisk walk to The Second Shelf – a book shop solely dedicated to women writers. A great suggestion with lots of very special books to admire – worth another visit for sure.

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Over the course of the day we walked over eight miles, explored four different Northern Line stops, ate at some fab independents and found lots of wonderful books. This will not be the last food and book crawl – it was far too successful! Thanks Katie – you were a most fitting partner in crime.

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Half Term Happenings In Liverpool

Every half term, I plan something to escape from teacher life. This half term, my fabulous friend Steph invited me and our lovely pal Lindsey to had a ‘mid-week weekend’ with her up north. After a five hour train ride, our fun began!

Tuesday

Easing ourselves into revelry, we donned our spring fling outfits and headed out for some tapas and cocktails. My tummy was very happy indeed. What a great start to our time together!

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Wednesday

Feeling slightly worse for wear the next morning, we took the train into Liverpool sporting our suits to get our hair coiffured by the talented Carl Brown. It was so nice to have someone else do my hair and he did the most fantastic beehive – it was so impressive!  Once we’d all the backcombed and hairsprayed , we moved on for a quick tipple in gorgeous surroundings of The Florist. I’d love to go back again – the bartender knew how to pick a good drink. Our final stop was afternoon tea at The Panoramic. I’ve been here before but a return visit is no bad thing. It was such a treat. Full of tea and cake, we headed home for an evening of TV and PJs.

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Thursday

Our final day saw us all in comfy knitwear for a day of relaxation. Steph properly spoilt us by arranging a spa day. To be honest if I could, I would happily have a spa day once a week – my body feels so much better afterwards. We looked a right trio as we wafted about in shower caps, protecting our fancy dos. Afterwards, we had  quick stop at Steph’s parents’ cafe for something yummy before Lindsey and I made our respective journeys home.

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Safe to say, it was a great getaway. There’s nothing better than good friends, good food and a great atmosphere. Thank you Steph for being the hostess with the mostess – here’s to the next one!

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Technically Edible: Maltby Street Market

I might not be able to spend time with loved ones as much as I’d like but when I do, I try to do something that all of us will enjoy. When I’d made plans to see my old uni friend Sam, I knew a foodie day out was top of the list. I asked @notsobasiclondon for a street market recommendation. One of the places she suggested was Maltby Street Market in Bermondsey.

OOTD

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Coffee

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I’m more of a tea than a coffee person but I love a decent black coffee once in a while. This place did not disappoint. We didn’t want to spoil our appetites so we didn’t try any of their incredibly tempting pastries. I’d happy go back for them though!

Gỏi Cuốn

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I always like to try new foods and I’d never tried Vietnamese food before. Nick suggested we try it as out first stop. I loved it – really fresh and full of different textures. It wasn’t too filling either so we were able to try more…

Gyoza

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Gyoza are so easy to eat and mildly addictive. We got a mix of pork and chicken ones with soy and chill on a mix of salad and noodles. Every tiny bit was perfect.

Arepa

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My beautify friend Rhina introduced me to arepa when she made them for a group of us for breakfast. When I saw the arepa stall I knew we needed to have one, especially as Sam hadn’t tried them before. They were ridiculous – filled with black beans, herby sauce, chorizo and a huge disc of fried cheddar. Messy as hell to eat but worth it.

Jerk Chicken

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We followed our noses to the next stall – Caribbean street food. We went for jerk chicken with rice and peas, plantain, scotch bonnet sauce and salad. A good mix of flavours and and textures.

Cocktails

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We settled down to digest at Little Bird gin bar. A good spot to sit, relax and catch-up with a range of cocktails to suit a mix of tastes.

Ice Cream

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3bis is one of my favourite gelato spots – soft and creamy gelato and melted chocolate in your cone! It’s a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth.

All in all, we had a pretty awesome day spending time together and eating yummy things. Sharing street food is a great way to try to lots of different dishes and make the most of the experience.

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